Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Missional Way for the Pro-Life Passion

Let me lay my cards on the table:

1) If you put overturning Roe v. Wade to a popular vote, I'm in line early ready to vote in favor of protecting the approximately one million unborn babies killed each year, and if you're a politician, the best way to lose my vote is to align with the pro-choice agenda.

2) Nevertheless, I don't believe laws -- or the protests and petitions and politicking that seek to achieve them -- are how we are going to eradicate abortion. Overturning Roe v. Wade is a win -- and it's a win we should work for -- but in my way of thinking, it is not the win.

The emancipation of the slaves was necessary. But it didn't end racism.

I am not proposing an either/or. What I'm proposing is that evangelicals take the harder route, adopt the harder cause, that we aim for Spiritual change of hearts more than we aim for legal stay of hands.

Here are some thoughts on how we may do this:

1. Gospel-centered preaching. Here's the thing: Pastors who preach culture war receive Amens from the already convinced and almost nothing from everybody else. At its worst a steady dose of this creates an unhealthy "us vs. them" mentality that has us thinking of our enemies in ways the Sermon on the Mount strictly forbids. But pastors who proclaim the freedom from sin and abundant life in Christ lay groundwork for zeal for life, not just for winning political battles. A gospel-driven pro-life agenda means hating abortion because we love women and we love the unborn. That sounds like a no-brainer but so many of our evangelical countrymen just sound like they hate abortion. And preaching isn't just for pastors. In general, more evangelicals need to talk Jesus more than they talk politics, or else we unintentionally communicate that our greatest treasure is "getting our country back" and that our chief message is political. We are great with the good news of the kingdom of the founding fathers. Let's return to the good news of the kingdom of God.

2. Reframing the abortion discussion. Lots of others have said this better than I can, but I think we've dropped the ball on how we frame the abortion issue. It is a matter of human rights, of civil rights, which is a perspective I first heard from my deeply pro-life friend who voted for Barack Obama. (I know, figure that one out.) But this is how we will best win in the political arena, I think. In many cases, this involves merely shifting from arguing against selfish moms (or whatever) and arguing for an appropriate definition of when life begins and becoming advocates for the voiceless unborn, exploited and commoditized. We can steer the discussion into the same rhetoric of the abolitionist and civil rights movements and end up stirring more hearts, I think.

3. Creating cultures of adoption and rescue. Human trafficking is the emerging danger. It's been going for a long time, but the Church is recently (and awesomely) stepping up efforts to combat it, even here in America. My friend Justin Holcomb and his wife lead efforts of Mars Hill Church in Seattle to rescue sex workers, sex abuse victims, and runaways in their city. Others are working hard to rescue young girls from the sex trade. On the other front, the Church is exponentially embracing the beauty of adoption. It has become a bona fide movement, thank God. The reactive culture of rhetoric and protests must give way to these proactive missionary movements. We will begin changing hearts and minds on these matters of life and death as we create cultures of adoption and rescue. But only communities can create cultures, so churches have to buy in corporately. More families adopting, more families serving and taking in pregnant teens, more churches helping families do those things, more churches loving families and kids, more churches finding ways to minister to the exploited and marginalized and to support missions and organizations that already are . . . these are the pro-active, missional steps to creating truly pro-life cultures.

4. Prophets, not pundits. I don't know how else to put this. We need an MLK for the pro-life movement, a unifying and prophetic voice. We need intellectually strong but charming, powerful, winsome statesmen. We need people who aren't just jockeying for time on FoxNews. I don't even know if this is possible today, given the nature of media exposure and the divide between political parties -- whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans marched with King; I wonder if we haven't so aligned the pro-life cause with conservative Republicanism that that kind of unity would be impossible for our cause -- but we need a peacemaker with a powerful voice. The only guy I can think of who has access to black, white, right, left, Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal, Christian and non, U.S., European, and everywhere else -- and has the respect and listening ear of them all -- is Bono. And I think he's probably pro-choice.

5. Technology, technology, technology. Do you know why the abortion rate is going down? I think it's the increasing advances in technology, particularly ultrasound technology. Women are seeing their babies. Technology is catching up with abortion. Smart churches will support their local crisis pregnancy centers, which are often frontlines on the struggle for the unborn, and help them get ultrasound equipment. No, they're not cheap. But life isn't either.

6. Love. I'm coming full circle, here, but if we were to outlaw abortion tomorrow, we'd still have 500,000 women a year who didn't want their babies. You have probably already had unwed teenage girls get pregnant in your church, and if you haven't you probably will at some point, and besides all that, there are plenty in your community and city. Before and in addition to removing abortion as a legal option for them, we have to love them, welcome them, teach them, serve them. Only the love of God can change hearts. Let that be the ammunition of our war.


Vitamin Z said...

Great post Jared. May it be so.

David Bae said...

What do you mean by abortion, as in what instances of abortion are you referring to in this article?

It seems to me like a majority of the time when the Christian church uses the word abortion, they paint the abortion issue as if it's black and white, women who don't want the babies they have due to unprotected sex, adultery, etc. wish to get rid of their babies and so they abort it.

I'm a Christian, I believe in the inerrant word of the Bible, I believe it is not only divinely inspired, but as such it holds the weight of divine words itself, but I don't believe the abortion issue is as clear cut, black-and-white, open-and-shut case as the church makes it out to be. I've never heard a pastor say, "I'm still searching for a sufficient answer to the problem of abortion" I know this sounds ... heinous, horrendous, in the ears of the Church, but really, is abortion such a clear cut issue?

Granted, plenty of abortions are done as a result of outside of marriage, unplanned, accidental pregnancies, but there are also abortions that are done for health/safety reasons.

There are cases of the birth of a baby being life-threatening, and fatal to the mother, there have been instances where even if the mother gives birth to a child it will only have a minor percent chance of surviving outside the womb, while the mother is almost guaranteed to die should she go through with the birthing process.

Is it then the mother's christian and moral obligation to end her life, in order go guarantee her child a chance at life no matter how slim? I think that's a debatable question. What about before the baby is even going to be born? The fact that the baby is developing in the womb is life-threatening to the mother, what do we then?

I feel like abortion is a deeply personal issue between peoples and their families, if we outlaw it, do we condemn all mothers with life-threatening pregnancies to death? Or at least a severe chance of it?

I agree that getting an abortion for the sake of protecting your image, or covering a mistake, or erasing an evidence of shame, is a morally heinous and utterly atrocious act of human selfishness. But what about the cases of abortion that's not?

If a woman is raped, and the resulting childbirth is life-threatening what then?

I'm not saying I have an answer, one way or the other, but I feel like abortion is not such an open-and-shut case that everyone seems to be.

I dont know if I could boldly say, abortion is wrong in all and every instance, and yet that's what every pastor and preacher says from the pulpit it seems.

I think your post is awesome, it's insightful, pointed, and you make some fantastic points about the creation of "them" and "us" within the rhetoric within the church, so that's why I'm choosing to ask you this, and post this comment here.

I'm not a big comment poster on posts that involve controversial issues because it inevitably draws me into a seemingly endless argument with people/posters about my comment, and it's not an argument for the sake of information or edification, but it's more of a, let's condemn him for his statement this person who has been deceived by Satan.

If that's the case, am I crazy? Am I the only one who thinks like this? Am I the only one who looks around at all these people boldly blasting Obama, and anyone else who might tentatively have shades of pro-choice, and wonder why they are so sure of themselves? Of their issues?

Help me understand Mr. Wilson, I've written this comment very long so I apologize for that, but I honestly feel like i've gone crazy, or have been horribly horribly deceived by Satan, am I being used as a tool of the devil?

Thanks for all your time, and this great post! God Bless

Jared said...

David, thanks for your comment and questions.

It may help to know that it is estimated that abortions necessary to save the life of a mother account for less than 1% of all abortions performed.
You may find this article helpful:

I do share your concerns about sensitivity in this area, and while if I were placed in the extremely difficult and heartbreaking position to choose between my wife and my unborn child, I am sure I would choose my wife, I am grateful that such an occurrence is so rare it does not deserve my anxiety, nor my wavering in the pro-life position.

Thanks again for the opportunity to respond to a good question.

David Bae said...

But it seems the movement today, such as the march's, protests, rallies, etc. are all about over-turning Roe V. Wade, and by implication and effect, outlawing abortion, would efforts then be made by the church to add exception clauses to a law banning abortion in order to give families in these tragic circumstances a choice?

Thanks so much for your prompt and insightful response

Jared said...

David, I'm not sure if you read the link provided, but it reiterates that "exception clauses" when the life of a mother is at stake have always been in place. They existed before Roe v. Wade when abortion was illegal, and every major bid to overturn Roe v. Wade has included exceptions for those rare (<1%) cases. So the answer to your question is "yes."

prin said...

In my opinion, until you've mastered #6, removing access to abortion will just lead to the murder of all those women along with their unwanted children as they resort to alternate means, be it underground services or the ol' coat hanger method.

The point is moot (and dangerous) until the source of the problem is tended to.

Jason Wert said...

Good stuff, Jared. Completely agree.

Doug said...

Jared, I just like you. Thank you for stating this, and pointing the issue back to the Gospel. The whole "ya'll are only pro-life until the bay is born" thing is perhaps an unfair over-generalization, but some culture warriors veer that way, so thanks for the correction to that. Thanks also for the educational aspects of it-I didn't realize the exception clauses were always there and would always remain, for instance. I'm grateful for your pointing out the complexities involved with being truly pro-life, and hope that posts such as this one would come to be the face of the movement.

I do wonder about cases of rape though, and wasn't sure if the exception clauses said anything about that. I have a dear friend who was raped when she was very young, and became pregnant. She considers herself generally pro-life, but did not feel capable-emotionally or otherwise-to carry the baby to term. What are your thoughts on that, especially from a pastoral counsel standpoint? I'm personally unable to support a law that would remove that as an option for her, but I'd love your thoughts on it.

One other thing: While I agree that some women and girls who get abortions don't "want" their babies, I do think that many who get abortions do in fact want them, but another consideration trumps that desire, I.E. abusive situations, grinding poverty, feelings of inadequacy to be a parent, the above-mentioned sexual assaults, etc...I heartily agree that love and cultures of life and rescue are the way for us to deal with this, and I'm not saying that those other considerations always trump a baby's life. Still, to say that they don't "want" their babies may be inaccurate, and may suggest more coldness than is at times present in women who get abortions. I agree with your proposed response to it, btw-seeking to love these women credibly and practically impacts alot of these issues. Just a thought in terms of how we define the problem.

Thanks so much for applying the Gospel to such a difficult issue.

Grace and peace,


Utecht Family said...

Wonderful post! My husband and I share your heart on this completely. We've recently teamed with Life Choices of Memphis (a pregnancy help clinic) to adopt a child from an unwanted pregnancy. What a joy to reach out with the hope of the Gospel not only to a baby but also to birthparents. We only wish we could do more...

Matt Cummings said...

Thanks for this post, Jared. It is helpful to think through abortion with gospel lenses. It is not an easy thing to think through without getting very emotional or defensive.

I, personally, am very thankful for point number 3. For a long time, Christians railed against abortion but did little on the adoption/rescue front.

I am glad to see that more and more evangelicals are entering the adoption realm. I personally have 5 friends who have adopted internationally and one set of friends who adopted embryos. I pray that evangelicals will continue to find ways to support adoption and rescue, instead of just railing against those who support abortion.